Born on March 1927 in Naples, Tecla Tofano moved to Caracas and entered the School of Plastic and Applied Arts (1954-56), where she studied ceramics and enamel on metal. Feminist and left-wing militant, Tecla Tofano was one of the founders of the Centro de Estudios de la Mujer at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, and organizer of the left-wing political party Movimiento al Socialismo.

Tecla Tofano has done ceramics, sculpture, drawings and jewelry design. She wrote books, newspaper articles, and taught as a professor of plastic and architectural expression at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the Central University of Venezuela, UCV (1959-80).

The following photo was taken by the visual artist and filmmaker Ángel Hurtado in 1961, when he was commissioned to make a series of television programs about Venezuelan artists. The interviews were conducted by Clara Diament, an Argentine gallery owner and collector. At that time, Tecla Tofano was 34 years old and had a space in the studio of painter and ceramist Luisa Palacios.

Tecla Tofano in her workshop with Clara Diament. Photo by Ángel Hurtado. Photo credit Archivo Fotografía Urbana.

“The result of my work is driven by a great need to say things, to talk to everyone, to talk about everything, not knowing how to do it. If it is baroque, if it is variegated, if it is unpleasant to the eye, if it is shocking on certain occasions, it is because what I am trying to say is not pretty.” – Tecla Tofano, 1964.

Tecla Tofano's ceramic production is often thought of in two phases. In the first one, from 1955 to 1963, the focus is on the production of utilitarian ceramics. During the second phase, from 1964 to 1977, Tecla Tofano worked ceramics in nontraditional ways, modeling mud and clay to create sculptural forms.

Marta Traba defines this shift as if: “modeling has liquidated the lathe, the beautiful has been replaced by the ugly, the intentional has swept away the innocence, the political has replaced the poetic”. Through her objects and forms she tried to portray consumer culture, bourgeois values, and gender stereotypes.

Tecla Tofano, “Vasija con manos” from the series “Los Enlatados”, 1969. Photo by Luis Becerra.

“I think my mother has always been a bit broken. She had the strength and severity of the survivor, the warrior who faced many battles; and a very tough character, which her family said was forged after surviving typhus as a child.” Said Carla, Tecla Tofano’s daughter.

Focused on feminist and social issues, Tecla Tofano’s exhibitions were nourished by a large number of pieces and presented satirical, grotesque and unexpected objects. In “Habitat and inhabitants”, at the Museum of Fine Arts, in 1968, she showed flowers that looked more like threats and malevolent animals; in “Canned”, at the Museum of Fine Arts, in 1970, she deformed hands, flowers and vulvas.

Starting in the 1960s, she wrote critical articles on society and culture from a left wing, feminist perspective for the newspaper El Nacional. Her work was featured at the Americas Society, New York City in 2015 and in the exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985” at the Brooklyn Museum in 2018.

Tecla Tofano in 1977.
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Tecla Tofano